James Franklin

Penn State head football coach James Franklin meets with the media at Beaver Stadium in August 2015.

STATE COLLEGE – Although Penn State coach James Franklin will be surrounded by the members of his Nittany Lions’ coaching and player family this fall, he’ll be apart from the three family members who know him best.

Franklin on Tuesday during a video chat appearance on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel announced his wife, Fumi, and two daughters, Addison and Shola, will retreat to the family’s vacation home in Florida this fall in efforts to limit Addison’s exposure to coronavirus. 

Sickle cell disease is a red blood cell disorder. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sickle cell disease and other hemoglobin disorders "may put people at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19."

“I have two daughters, and my one youngest daughter has sickle cell disease, so it’s changed the dynamics of our family,” Franklin said. “My wife and kids are going to stay in Florida for the season, and I’m going to be in Happy Valley just because we think that’s the right thing to do for my daughter with sickle cell.”

Penn State’s season is scheduled to begin on Sept. 5 at home against Kent State. Should the Nittany Lions earn a bowl berth, depending on which bowl selects them, they could see their season conclude in January.

“There were a lot of tears, there was a lot of emotion having this conversation with my daughters,” Franklin told Gumbel. “A lot of heartache over it.”

Penn State started voluntary workouts on June 15 during a two-week phasing-in process. Franklin on Monday shared due to concerns of the coronavirus, not everyone returned to State College.

“We have a number of players that chose not to come back, and they have that right,” Franklin said. “There’s no doubt about it. They have that right. But we can’t take away all risks.”

Positive coronavirus tests since college football teams began voluntary workouts have been announced at numerous programs. According to USA Today, more than three dozen programs have experienced coronavirus outbreaks.

“Overall, USA TODAY Sports identified 37 universities with FBS programs, roughly a quarter of the FBS, that have reported positive cases of COVID-19 among athletes and/or staff at a time when the overall number of cases is soaring in several states. (Not every university is revealing test results, meaning the total may be significantly higher, and not all the athletes are football players.),” wrote USA Today’s Paul Myerberg on Wednesday. 

Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren joined Gumbel via video chat for Tuesday’s program. The first-year head of the Big Ten acknowledged the severity of the pandemic and said the league expects to proceed with as scheduled but will act accordingly and in collaboration with health experts.

“What we’re planning is to start on time, but there are so many moving parts,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren told Gumbel. “This is a fluid situation. Always in the backdrop, we have to mindful of the medical impact, because we are at a collective inflection point in society that we need to come together to make sure that we understand that everything we do, everything we say, all of our decisions matter.”

Elton Hayes is a veteran sports writer who covers Penn State for CNHI LLC publications. Contact him at ehayes@cnhi.com or follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.

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